Understanding and overcoming personality disorders through therapy

Personality disorders can be multi-faceted, highly-individualized conditions that affect each person uniquely. But at Thriveworks, we understand this complexity— and that’s why we believe in the pivotal role that personality disorder therapy plays in treatment.

Our specialized therapists offer tailored and compassionate interventions, aiming to support individuals in navigating these intricate conditions. Learn more below about how Thriveworks’ expertise empowers individuals towards healing and transformation through effective therapy approaches.

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Personality Disorders?

Currently, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) stands as a leading method for handling personality disorders due to its emphasis on vital skills like distress tolerance, flexible thinking, and emotional control. Talk therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) or various group therapies offer significant advantages. 

ACT focuses on mindfulness, acceptance, and (as you might have guessed) committing to behavioral changes, while group therapy fosters social interaction and mutual learning among peers facing similar challenges. 

In certain cases, medication might be prescribed to manage specific symptoms or concurrent mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or mood swings associated with personality disorders.

What Are the 3 Types of Personality Disorders?

Cluster A:

  • Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a great distrust in others, even loved ones. Due to this distrust, these individuals are always on guard and suspicious of those around them. They are also overly sensitive, easily humiliated, consistently grudgeful, and have trouble building close relationships.
  • Schizoid personality disorder leaves individuals feeling detached, uninterested in social relationships, and lacking emotional response. Those affected by schizoid personality disorder are disconnected from reality and more prone to introspection.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder is characterized by eccentricities in both appearance and behavior. Individuals with this illness often have strange beliefs, such as magical thinking, and are suspicious of those around them. Like those with schizoid personality disorders, they avoid social relationships—not because they lack the desire to develop relationships with others, but because they fear them.

Cluster B

  • Antisocial personality disorder causes one to lack empathy, that is concern for the feelings of others. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are irritable, aggressive, impulsive, and unapologetic for their actions. However, these individuals typically have no problem developing relationships—though they are short-lived thanks to the aforementioned characteristics.
  • Borderline personality disorder is characterized by an individual’s absent sense of self, which triggers feelings of desolation and fears of abandonment and neglect. People who are diagnosed with this disorder typically have unstable relationships and emotions, as well as outbursts of anger, violence, and impulsive behavior.
  • Histrionic personality disorder leaves individuals feeling worthless and useless. They rely solely on attracting attention and receiving approval from others for their well-being and may come across as charming or act inappropriately seductive. Furthermore, these individuals are sensitive to criticism and rejection.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by feelings of entitlement and cockiness and a need to be admired or even worshipped. These individuals lack empathy and have no problem exploiting others to achieve their goals; if they feel disrespected or obstructed, they often react with anger and revenge.

Cluster C

  • Avoidant personality disorder makes people believe that they’re inferior and inadequate human beings. These individuals greatly fear criticism, embarrassment, and rejection—due to these fears, they avoid social interaction and restrain themselves even in relationships with close loved ones.
  • Dependent personality disorder is characterized by a lack of self-confidence and the individual’s need to be cared for. Not only do they need help making important life decisions, but they require help making mundane decisions on a day-to-day basis. Their biggest fear is abandonment and they may do whatever it takes to ensure upkeep of their relationships.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder causes individuals to become preoccupied with details, lists, organization, rules, and so on; it is characterized by the utmost perfectionism and productivity that can very well hinder one’s relationships. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are usually cautious and controlling to a fault.

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How to Perform an Intervention for a Personality Disorder

If you’re looking to conduct an intervention for a loved one or someone near to you, and you suspect they have a personality disorder, you can politely express your concern for their mental health—but be careful to use “I”-based language and avoid pinning excessive amounts of blame on the affected individual.  The more objective language you can use with them the more effective you will be communicating with them.

You should not attempt to treat their condition—encourage them to seek the support of a therapist or psychiatric nurse practitioner via personality disorder therapy at Thriveworks.

While many clients who are diagnosed with a personality disorder often begin with dialectical behavior therapy and/or psychiatric care, at Thriveworks, our clinicians always use a personalized approach to treat each client.

What Triggers Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are thought to be triggered by a mix of factors, which include: 

  • Genetics that can set the stage for certain symptoms
  • Childhood experiences like trauma or unsupportive parenting
  • Social pressures and cultural norms play a role
  • Co-existing mental health issues or substance abuse can worsen these disorders

There’s no single cause; it’s a complex blend of genetics, upbringing, society, and mental health factors such as the individual’s past and present environments. Addressing personality disorders requires personality disorder therapy treatments that consider an individual’s history, genetics, environment, and psychological experiences.

What Is the Hardest Personality Disorder to Treat?

There’s no broadly accepted consensus on this—however, the symptoms of both antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be challenging to treat, due to deep-rooted traits of these disorders that can make those who have them highly resist to changing their behavior. Individuals with these disorders often lack awareness of their condition, making them less open to therapy. 

Building trust and rapport can be hard to build, but as with any condition, both APD and NPD are treatable with personality disorder therapy.

Can Someone with a Personality Disorder Change?

Yes, of course—it’s nearly always possible for someone dealing with a mental health condition to improve their quality of life and ability to manage their symptoms. The human condition is not fixed—and with a clinician’s guidance, individuals in personality disorder therapy sessions can gain the insight, confidence, and coping skills they need to change what’s holding them back.

Personality Disorder Treatment Medication

For any personality disorder, medication management can range to find the best fit. Therapy is still an extremely important part of treatment for most, if not all personality disorders, and those suffering from a personality disorder may benefit from a wide range of medication types.

Medications aren’t the main treatment for personality disorders, but they can help manage specific symptoms or coexisting conditions. Here are some types of medications used:

  • Antidepressants (like SSRIs or SNRIs) can ease depression, anxiety, or mood instability often found in these disorders.
  • Mood stabilizers (such as lithium or certain anticonvulsants) may manage mood swings or emotional instability.
  • Antipsychotics are cautiously used for symptoms like paranoia, brief psychotic episodes, or severe agitation.
  • Short-term use of anti-anxiety medication like benzodiazepines may alleviate acute anxiety, but they’re monitored closely due to dependency risks.

Remember, medication management varies based on individual needs and co-existing conditions. Usually combined with therapy, medications are part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Schedule a session with one of our qualified mental health professionals at Thriveworks is essential to create the best approach for treating personality disorders.

How to Start Your Journey to Healing

If you’re ready to start your journey to recovery, schedule an appointment with Thriveworks today and let us be your partner in your transformation to a more fulfilling life. By choosing Thriveworks, you’ll find a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental space to explore your challenges, develop coping mechanisms, and cultivate a healthier way of living.

Take the First Step Towards Recovery

At Thriveworks, we understand that beginning the journey towards healing from personality disorders can feel overwhelming. However, taking that first step is often the most courageous and transformative decision one can make.

Our team of dedicated team of therapists and counselors can offer you personality disorder therapy to support and guide you through every stage of your journey, providing you with personalized and comprehensive therapy tailored to your unique needs. Schedule your appointment today.

Table of contents

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Personality Disorders?

What Are the 3 Types of Personality Disorders?

How to Perform an Intervention for a Personality Disorder

What Triggers Personality Disorders?

What Is the Hardest Personality Disorder to Treat?

Can Someone with a Personality Disorder Change?

Personality Disorder Treatment Medication

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Kate Hanselman, PMHNP in New Haven, CT

Kate Hanselman, PMHNP-BC

Kate Hanselman is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC). She specializes in family conflict, transgender issues, grief, sexual orientation issues, trauma, PTSD, anxiety, behavioral issues, and women’s issues.

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Alexandra Cromer, LPC

Alexandra “Alex” Cromer is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who has 4 years of experience partnering with adults, families, adolescents, and couples seeking help with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and trauma-related disorders.

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Jason Crosby is a Senior Copywriter at Thriveworks. He received his BA in English Writing from Montana State University with a minor in English Literature. Previously, Jason was a freelance writer for publications based in Seattle, WA, and Austin, TX.

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  • Kjennerud, T. R. (2010, March). The genetic epidemiology of personality disorders. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181941/

  • Bozzatello, B. Et al. (2021, November). Borderline personality disorder: Risk factors and early detection. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8620075/

  • Herzog, J. I., & Schmahl, C. (2018, September 4). Adverse childhood experiences and the consequences on neurobiological, psychosocial, and somatic conditions across the lifespan. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6131660/

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